|I say, the messier the better.|
So, why are doing this to yourself you ask? Because in the past year and half, I managed to gain a cool tener...yes, I have gained ten pounds thanks to a diet of french fries dipped in mayo, too many glasses of Belgian beer and way too many yummy, salty goodies coated in orange powder. There was once a time in a land far, far away where I could readily partake of these deliciously evil food stuffs without consequence. However, now that I have passed the 40 year mark, those days, those lovely, lovely days where a mere 2 mile jog could undo the Plato Gordo and a jumbo margarita are distant memories.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not giving up everything nor am I trying to pull an about face and suddenly start preaching a healthy lifestyle after hawking some of the worst food on the planet. Heck, my blog is stilled named Fatback and Foie Gras and so it will remain. I'm just trying to get some stubborn poundage off my belly, which was inevitably brought on by a combination of crappy diet and old age, something for you youngin's to look forward to.
many of these unmentionables still have a place in my life, otherwise I seriously can't go on, so while I'm lacing my up running shoes a few more times each week and subbing out grilled salmon for country fried steak a bit more, I will still partake of all that's food worthy in this world, just not every night, and this includes one tasty item that very few can resist, especially me-- the hamburger.
When it comes to burgers, I am a classics gal. While topping a burger with blue cheese, barbecue sauce, fried eggs, avocado, or even Spam is noteworthy and preferred by some, I like my burger done up the old-fashioned way with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and maybe cheddar or American cheese, but that's me. However you decide to pile it on and whatever you prefer, here are a few tips to help you make the best (i.e. your own "perfect") burger at home.
1. Don't skimp on the quality of the bun. Much of a burger's beauty comes from sinking your teeth into a soft, chewy bun that's soaked up just the right amount of meat grease. A poor quality, dried out bun is a great way to ruin your burger eating experience. I personally like Martin's potato rolls especially their seeded buns which seem to scream, "put a big hunk of grilled meat on me!"
2. The meat. First it's got to be 80/20 or at least 85/15, which means there's a decent amount of fat ground up with the beef. Super lean burgers, while healthier, most often end up as dried up hockey pucks on a bun, so I say, if you're gonna eat a burger, eat a stinkin' burger in all its glory and make it a good one. Also, ground chuck makes for the best burger meat in my opinion.
3. Be nice to your meat. When it comes to shaping your patties, avoid over handling them. Gently roll them into balls and then flatten with your hand, and don't make them too thin (unless you like them that way). Also, I've found that pressing an indentation into the middle of the burger with your thumb before placing it on the grill or pan helps the meat to do a bit of self basting as it cooks. Finally, season generously with salt and pepper (or other seasonings of your choice) on both sides just before grilling and not before. Salt breaks down proteins in the meat, so you don't want your burger marinating in it.
4. Put your burger on the grill or in the pan and don't touch it! Step away from the pan. Flipping your burger around too many times results in a fully cooked burger with minimal sear, and let's face it, one of the best parts of a burger is that lovely blackened char on the outside. Finally, this tip bears repeating. Do not press your burger with a spatula while you cook it unless you want to extract every drop of juiciness. This is a big no-no as is overcooking your burger, so if you're unsure about the difference between medium-rare and well-done, use a meat thermometer.
5. On piling it on. As I mentioned previously, whatever you want to put on your burger is ok by me. However, don't pile on too much stuff, especially wet ingredients like tomatoes, sauces etc...unless you're ok eating your hamburger with a knife and fork. Layer your toppings on both sides of the burger to avoid squeezing all the goods out of the bun. For instance, I like to put a little mustard and some sliced or minced onions on the bottom bun. Then, I add the burger meat and top with lettuce, tomato, pickle, a bit of ketchup and then slather some mayo on the top bun. I also lightly grill my bun to keep it from getting soggy.
It snowed yesterday and now it's supposed to be 70 degrees in a day or two. I say, it's time to fire up the grill and make a couple of burgers. Perhaps I'll be splurging along with you since, Lord knows, I am seriously craving one right now.
Got a tip for making the perfect burger or a special combination of toppings that makes your burger special? Feel free to share it.
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